Australia’s favourite fish: Results

 

The people of Australia have spoken. Which of our native fish species will be crowned the greatest of all?

 
 Illustration by Leigh Douglas

Illustration by Leigh Douglas

 

Last month, we received nearly 1,200 votes as we sought to crown Australia’s favourite fish. The contest was hard fought, with voters championing their species on social media and even distributing ‘How to vote’ cards.

It was heartening to receive such a strong response to our national survey. Australia hosts a remarkable diversity of native fish species, often hidden from plain view unless you’re a scientist, fisher or diver. Each of these fish deserves the recognition we would typically bestow upon a koala or magpie, and to be celebrated and conserved well into the future.

But they can’t all be winners, of course: Australia’s top 10 favourite fish are listed below.

 
 

9. Blue groper

Achoerodus viridis [41 votes; tied]

New South Wales’ marine emblem is a curious, charismatic wrasse renowned for approaching and interacting with divers as they enter the water.

 
 
   John Turnbull/Flickr    (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

John Turnbull/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

9. PORT JACKSON SHARK

Heterodontus portusjacksoni [41 votes; tied]

These small, friendly sharks have been described as the “puppy dogs of the ocean”. Some individuals undertake annual migrations of up to 600km along Australia’s eastern coast.

  © David Harasti

© David Harasti

8. Manta ray

Mobula alfredi [43 votes]

Although the smaller of the two manta ray species, this fish is no slouch in the size department — boasting a disc width of up to 5 metres.

7. Whale shark

Rhincodon typus [50 votes]

The ocean's largest fish is a slow-moving filter-feeder, providing divers at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, with some of their most memorable close encounters.

6. Largetooth sawfish

Pristis pristis [55 votes]

Northern Australia is one of the few remaining strongholds for the largetooth sawfish, which is rapidly disappearing across its global range and is considered critically endangered.

  David Wachenfield/Triggerfish Images (   Simon Fraser University/Flickr   ; CC BY 2.0)

David Wachenfield/Triggerfish Images (Simon Fraser University/Flickr; CC BY 2.0)

5. Great white shark

Carcharodon carcharias [62 votes]

A powerful marine predator that feeds largely on seals, penguins, fish and seabirds. Although a highly migratory fish, Australia’s eastern and western populations remain quite distinct.

4. Hoodwinker sunfish

Mola tecta [66 votes]

This new species, which can weigh several hundred kilograms, was hiding in plain sight for over a century, before it was formally described last year by PhD student Marianne Nyegaard.

  © Kane Fleury/Otago Museum, Dunedin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

© Kane Fleury/Otago Museum, Dunedin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

3. Weedy seadragon

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus [87 votes]

Victoria’s marine emblem is a carnivore, sucking up small crustaceans and other invertebrates through its tubular snout.

   Klaus Stiefel/Flickr    (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Klaus Stiefel/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

2. Murray cod

Maccullochella peelii [104 votes]

Australia’s largest freshwater bony fish. Once widespread through the Murray-Darling River system, the Murray cod is now rare in many places and large individuals are seldom caught.

1. Leafy seadragon

Phycodurus eques [132 votes]

Elaborate leaf-like protrusions help this fish camouflage itself amongst the kelp and seagrass. The leafy seadragon has been South Australia’s marine emblem since 2001.

THE REST

Every fish on our 51 species shortlist was at least somebody’s favourite, with one exception: The orange roughy, a distinctive deep-sea fish with important economic value, received zero votes, although we love it, anyway.

11 Australian lungfish [36 votes]
12 Spotted handfish [35]
13 Desert goby [30]
14 Barramundi [21]
15 Red-finned blue-eye [19]
16 Tasselled wobbegong [18]
Tiger shark [18]
18 Dusky flathead [16]
Mahi mahi [16]
20 Common coral trout [15]
21 Southern bluefin tuna [11]
22 Snapper [10]
Baldchin groper [10]
Eastern blue devil fish [10]
25 Purple spotted gudgeon [9]
26 Macquarie perch [8]
Blind cave eel [8]
Australian bass [8]
29 King George whiting [7]
Yellowtail kingfish [7]

31 Blue tang [6]
Trout galaxias [6]
Northern river shark [6]
White's seahorse [6]
35 Eastern clown anemonefish [5]
Sevenspot archerfish [5]
Freshwater moray [5]
Black bream [5]
39 Gummy shark [4]
40 Sooty grunter [3]
Barrier reef anemonefish [3]
42 Crimsonspotted rainbowfish [2]
Black cod [2]
Empire gudgeon [2]
Queensland groper [2]
Golden perch [2]
Running River rainbowfish [2]
Banded rainbowfish [2]
49 Albacore [1]
Southern shortfin eel [1]
51 Orange roughy [0]

  The orange roughy: Unloved in this survey, but certainly not forgotten.    Daphne Themelis/Fisheries and Oceans Canada/ WORMS    (CC BY-NC-SA)

The orange roughy: Unloved in this survey, but certainly not forgotten. Daphne Themelis/Fisheries and Oceans Canada/ WORMS (CC BY-NC-SA)

WRITE-IN CANDIDATES

No shortlist could ever quite capture the diversity of Australia’s fish, so it’s no surprise we received many complaints about missing favourites. To satisfy the nation’s fish lovers, we allowed readers to submit write-in candidates, which provided votes for an additional 57 species. The following fish received multiple votes:

1 Spiny chromis (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) [27 votes; equivalent to 14th place]
2 Black marlin (Istiompax indica) [7 votes]
3 River blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) [5]
4 Chevron butterflyfish (Chaetodon trifascialis) [4]
5 Mangrove jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus) [3]
6 Eastern Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) [2]
Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) [2]
Jungle perch (Kuhlia rupestris) [2]
West Australian dhufish (Glaucosoma hebraicum) [2]
Blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) [2]

  The spiny chromis damselfish found a loyal online following, despite being absent from the official shortlist.   Nikita/Wikimedia Commons  (CC BY 2.0)

The spiny chromis damselfish found a loyal online following, despite being absent from the official shortlist. Nikita/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

 
 
 

The Australia’s Favourite Fish poll was supported by the Australian Society for Fish Biology, and managed by Andrew Katsis. Species descriptions for our shortlist were contributed by Andrew Katsis, Lachlan Fetterplace, David Harasti, Katherine Cure, Brendan Ebner and David Boseto. We are also indebted to Museum Victoria’s Fishes of Australia database, curated by Dianne Bray, for additional species information.

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